The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently granted a plaintiff’s request for a new trial after a low jury award. In Naraghian v. Wilson (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 12, 2015), the plaintiff sued the defendant to recover for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Following a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff but also found her to be partially at fault for the accident. The trial court reduced the number of damages by the percentage of the plaintiff’s comparative fault as determined by the jury. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the jury’s damages award was not supported by material evidence.
In 2008, the plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant at an intersection. The plaintiff testified at trial that she was stopped at a red light when the defendant hit her vehicle. Conversely, the defendant presented testimony that the plaintiff began to move her car when the light turned green and then stopped suddenly, causing the defendant to rear-end the plaintiff’s vehicle. In addition, the plaintiff’s doctor testified that the medical treatment received by the plaintiff was reasonable and necessary, and the plaintiff’s injuries were the direct result of the 2008 traffic accident. The medical expenses totaled $13,440. Although the plaintiff’s doctor was cross-examined by the defendant’s counsel, there was no serious dispute as to the reasonableness or necessity of the plaintiff’s medical expenses, nor that her injuries were caused by the accident, and the defendant did not present any other evidence to refute the doctor’s testimony or medical bills.
Following the conclusion of the trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded total damages in the amount of $7,831.61. Since the jury also found that the plaintiff was 44% at fault for the accident, those damages were reduced to $4,340.31. The plaintiff appealed the jury’s verdict, contending that the damages awarded by the jury were disproportionate to the number of damages proven at the trial.
The appeals court agreed with the plaintiff, finding that the testimony provided by her doctor regarding her medical treatment and expenses was largely unchallenged and uncontradicted. In light of the proof presented at trial, the court concluded that there was no material evidence to support an award of damages as low as that found by the jury. The court further stated that it was clear from the jury’s apportionment of liability between the parties that the question was a close one, and the damages were inadequate in light of the proof presented at trial. The court noted that the circumstances of the verdict indicate a strong suspicion that the ultimate damages awarded were the result of a compromise. As a result, the court of appeals held that it was necessary for the matter to be re-tried.
The personal injury attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard are dedicated to representing Nashville residents injured in car crashes and other accidents. Our skilled attorneys will take the time to learn about your case and vigorously pursue your right to compensation. Contact us today to discuss your case, by phone at (615) 800-7096 or through our website.